What do you do if you find a prime location for your dream house but an existing house is in the way? Well, you can purchase the house and try to demolish it. This week I went to the New Orleans City Council to speak against a proposal to demolish an undamaged 1890’s Queen Anne style house on Henry Clay Street in the Audubon Park neighborhood so that the owners could build a new "green" house. The couple bought the house for $900,000, and they and their realtor contend that they didn’t realize they would have to get approval from the Housing Conservation District Review Committee (HCDRC) for its demolition. This is a committee that has been around for over seven years to hear demolition cases in historic neighborhoods outside of the local historic districts.
This urge to demolish is especially shocking given that its goal was supposedly sustainability, as it is a complete contradiction of what the green building movement envisions. It would be more responsible to apply green building principles to the current building--exploring ways to conserve energy, preserving its original materials, and ensuring that the building continues to exist for another 100 years. The resources contained in this house will be wasted and lost forever with its demolition.
When the committee unanimously turned them down, they appealed to the City Council. The Council voted unanimously to uphold the HCDRC. It’s hard to believe that in a city that can ill-afford to lose its historic built environment, someone would think nothing of demolishing a sound building in a historic neighborhood—but obviously even post-Katrina New Orleans is not immune from the national tear-downs trend.
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